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Byfuglien an unexpected hero for Blackhawks

May 25, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

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Every postseason is filled with unexpected heroes, players who
stepped up and took their game to the next level as their team
progressed in the playoffs. When teams don’t have those sorts of
players, then progressing in the postseason becomes increasingly
unlikely. More than any other sport, we learn just how much of a team
game hockey is once the postseason comes.

For the Chicago
Blackhawks, perhaps we can look at none other than Antti Nieimi as the
difference maker so far. Yet with a team leading four game-winning
goals, including three in the sweep against the Sharks, there’s no way
we can overlook just how important Dustin Byfuglien has become for the
Hawks.

We all know about his willingness and ability to move from
forward to defense and back again; it’s an unsung ability and role you
just don’t see very often in the NHL. Yet when Byfuglien was permanently
moved to the top line against the Canucks, that’s when he really
started to make a difference.

“I think it started in
the Vancouver series. All those fans were getting
on his case. He wasn’t popular in that building,” Blackhawks forward
Patrick Sharp said of the man known as “Big Buff.” “Seems like he likes
the spotlight. He likes being the hero. He steps up in big-time.”

Byfuglien
has eight goals in the postseason, including goals in five straight
games. His willingness and ability to crash the net, his agility in the
trenches despite his size, makes him one heck of a foe for opposing
defenses to try and clear out. Amazingly, the defenses have sometimes
completely forgotten about Byfuglien as he’s picked the perfect time to
come down low and pound home a goal.

He was instrumental in
frustrating the Canucks and was the backbreaker against the Sharks.
He’ll continue to have to be a difference maker in the Stanley Cup
finals, when every goal and every play becomes so incredibly important.

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